The co-leader of Aberdeen City Council said the financial impact of coronavirus on the city could be reduced to £20 million, amid accusations of scaremongering.
He wrote to the Scottish Government’s Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart, calling for funding to deal with the impact of the outbreak to be distributed fairly.
Mr Lumsden said he asked council officers to look at measures aimed at mitigating the financial impact of the virus on Aberdeen. However, Mr Lumsden was unable to give details as to what these measures would be.
But he insisted the cost could eventually reach £50m in a worst-case scenario, and called on the opposition groups to fight for more funding to support the city in the fight against the virus.
He said: “I have called for the chief executive to provide a report to the urgent business committee.
“That report should provide details of the shortfall right across the council including revenue, capital housing revenue and integrated joint board.
“My discussions as finance convener with senior officials would suggest that our shortfall could be in the region of £50m.
“However, even if through mitigation measures that I have asked officers to look at we can reduce this significantly to £20m, it is incumbent on both the SNP and Lib Dems to put the case for substantial financial assistance from the Scottish Government to protect vital services.”
But now opposition group leaders have cast doubt on Mr Lumsden’s estimate, claiming the figure does not match council officers’ assessments.
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Opposition leaders called on the council co-leader to explain his assessment of the crisis facing the city.
Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill said: “Perhaps Councillor Lumsden would be kind enough to tell us where he got this number and how it was calculated?”
He added: “Aberdeen’s councillors need to work as a team to make a fact-based case for additional government funding. Councillor Lumsden’s scaremongering with a figure he seems to have plucked from thin air does nothing to help that.
“To be honest, it looks to have been designed to do nothing more than generate headlines for the Conservatives and Councillor Lumsden. Now is not the time for party politics.”
In his response to Mr Lumsden’s letter, Mr Stewart said money allocated to Scotland through the coronavirus emergency relief fund had already been allocated.
SNP group leader Alex Nicoll said: “It is disgraceful that Councillor Lumsden is using this unprecedented situation we find ourselves in to yet again pick a fight with the Scottish Government.
“Councillor Lumsden provided no evidence to suggest the costs would be as high as £50m and, similarly, no evidence around what these ‘mitigations’ that could save £30m would be.
“At this moment in time nobody can predict the final cost to the council but, given we have people dying in our care homes from Covid-19, he should focus on protecting the people in our city and not trying to grab a headline.”
The Evening Express understands finance officers will give an update on the council’s financial position at the next meeting of the urgent business committee.